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Angels lose to Oakland, 4-1, but are encouraged by starter Alex Meyer's stint

Angels lose to Oakland, 4-1, but are encouraged by starter Alex Meyer's stint
Oakland Athletics' Joey Wendle slides past Angels' Kaleb Cowart to steal second base in the third inning Wednesday. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Somewhere in the Eastern United States in April 2014, two Minnesota Twins pitching prospects held a conversation about changeups. Before a game in Pennsylvania or New York, Deolis Guerra, a tall reliever, approached Alex Meyer, an even taller starter, to tell him he would be better off nixing the circle-changeup grip he favored for a faster, three-finger change.

In the International League that spring, Meyer experimented to  great success. He had always lacked a reliable third pitch to complement his fastball and breaking ball and ensure he could remain a starter rather than a reliever. Guerra's suggestion was the solution he sought, Meyer has since said.

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Both men are Angels now. On Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum, Guerra watched as Meyer hardly utilized it in his Angels debut. The 6-foot-9 right-hander threw only two over his 3 1/3 innings in the Angels’ 4-1 loss to the Athletics. The first changeup was clocked at 92 mph, and Marcus Semien flailed at it. But Meyer could not command his vicious fastball well enough to feel comfortable deploying the change of pace.

"I need to throw more than that," Meyer said.

Still, the Angels were encouraged by Meyer's abbreviated debut. He carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning. When his pitches were around the strike zone, the Athletics generally could not come in contact with them.

Of Meyer's 68 pitches, 40 were fastballs, reaching as high as 98.9 mph. Thirty-one were balls. He issued four walks. He struck out five men. Six of the 15 Athletics he faced put the ball into play.

“It was good to see that stuff,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “That stuff is real.”

Scioscia said it will be "impossible" for Meyer to reach 100 pitches in a start this season. He has four outings left, probably, and may only augment his workload a bit by the end. But the club is counting on him as a starter for next season, and this trial will announce how much expectation he can handle.

Often on Wednesday, he did not only miss the strike zone, but missed wildly — particularly to his pitching-arm side with his fastball, outside to left-handed hitters. He believed he was missing because he was too excited and thus allowing his left side to come open too early within his delivery.

"I'm trying to make each pitch nastier than it needs to be," he said.

Wednesday's starter for Oakland, rookie right-hander Jharel Cotton, better harnessed the changeup that made him a prospect, and the rest of his stuff, over 6 1/3 sharp innings. But he benefited from a weakened opposition.

The Angels’ third baseman, Yunel Escobar, remains out with a bruised left wrist suffered Saturday. Additionally, Scioscia chose to combine Wednesday’s early start with Thursday’s scheduled day off to give Mike Trout and Albert Pujols back-to-back days of rest. So he furnished his lineup with only three men who had been on his opening-day roster: Andrelton Simmons, Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron.

The rest of them began the season in triple A, as did Cotton. Acquired from the Dodgers on the Aug. 1 trade deadline, Cotton was making his major league debut. He came within one out of a no-hitter in his second start in the Athletics organization, and he toted a perfect game into the fourth inning Wednesday afternoon.

Simmons, a teammate of Cotton's brother at tiny Western Oklahoma State College six years ago,  ended that attempt by singling. Seeing the pitcher not paying attention, he then helped himself to a huge lead and swiped second base.

That expedition did not net the Angels their only run. That came in the seventh inning, when Cron ambushed a 3-and-2 changeup and drove it 408 feet to center field, ending Cotton's day.

It was the Angels' second hit of the game. They did not notch another.

Short hops

Matt Shoemaker returned home from Seattle on Wednesday. The Angels right-hander underwent emergency surgery late Sunday night after he was struck by a line drive in the head while on the mound. He sustained a hematoma and a small skull fracture, but should be able to pitch next season. … Manager Mike Scioscia said he will start right-hander Daniel Wright on Saturday against Texas to fill Shoemaker’s slot. Wright, 25, was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati over the weekend. He started twice for the Reds this season and yielded 16 runs in 13 innings. Asked why Wright was chosen over veterans Jhoulys Chacin and Brett Oberholtzer, Scioscia cited his fastball’s high spin rate, which tends to lead to more swinging strikes and fly balls than the 90-mph average velocity would indicate. He’ll become the 15th man to start for the Angels.

pedro.moura@latimes.com

Twitter: @pedromoura

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